RIMC 2011: Online crisis management

Online crisis management is the name of the next session in hall 2. The first speaker in this session is Nils Apelund from First House. After two humorous anecdotes from the real world involving Canada, grapefruits and a quick-thinking boy, Nils goes on to apply the real world of crisis management to the online world.

Reputation is a great base to start from because it is an automatic draw in many ways and will bring goodwill and money all by itself. A good reputation is also a great cushion in times of crisis, buying you goodwill and extra time.

Reputation is a reflection of your identity. It is the part of your identity that the world sees and that it remembers – even when you’re not in the room. Reputation starts at home with your actual actions. Doing good things is the best way to improve reputation.

Identify your stakeholders. Find out what they are saying about you already. Ask what is important to them. Compare that to what you are already communicating about. And finally harmonise these factors.

Over-delivering on your promises is a great reputation builder – even if it means you need to under-promise.

When a crisis hits, Nils says it is the test of a reputation. Monitor the crisis, find out the facts and limit the crisis. An example was the recent grounding of Eimskip’s Goðafoss container ship off Norway which leaked oil. Eimskip did the best possible thing in the situation and that was to say sorry early and promise to sort the mess. It also helped that the spill was not as bad as feared. If you don’t apologise, another strategy is to fight the crisis. The third option is to fix the problem and over-deliver in making it right.

As great as communicating with the press is, don’t forget your own media. Your website, your Facebook and Twitter are extremely valuable during crises. The next thing to do is clean up after the crisis and get rid of its presence online.

Next up to the podium is Guðmundur Gunnlaugsson from Clara who speaks about the process of crisis management within closed communities. Clara specialises in text mining to allow businesses to electronically tag what people are saying about them online.

Guðmundur says that major corporate crisis of image spread rapidly and action in the first 24 hours is critical. A case study is Iceland’s CCP (maker of EVE Online) and the wave of protest that came when it was realised that the company wanted to change over to a microtransaction model that would allow people to buy vanity items in the game and pay to revamp their characters. CCP quickly convened its player council to decide what to do, as well as monitoring the massive online buzz. In the end they decided to cancel the character upgrades while allowing the introduction of vanity items. The result was moderately favourable and the crisis was largely averted.

What was different about this crisis to other ones? Mostly that it occurred in their own backyard among their own players who they know a lot about and who they can communicate with effectively. This is very different to a global viral campaign against BP or Dell, for example.
Text mining is important these days because of the speed, its wide coverage, its good general overview and the fact that more text is published than anyone could ever read. Text mining allows you to profile likely trouble starters beforehand and work out how to interact with them before any crisis even begins.

Text mining can help you guess people’s age, sex, personality type, education level and more – just by the way they write. This puts you in a powerful position in dealing with them.

Next on stage is Mikkel deMib, Ninja SEO, whose first point is that although we have the right to free speech, if we can promote the positive things said about us and suppress the negative, then we should.

Keywords are the key to search engine management. Find the best keywords and be more specific than you would be with marketing. Focus on impact rather than quantity.

You can then rate the top 10-30 URLs in search on their positivity or negativity and end up with a concrete number to describe your reputation.

So what to do about it? One thing is to promote the positive at the expense of the negative. Another is simply to find out who is saying the statements against you if they are illegal and in your jurisdiction. But never call your lawyer as a first step because they do not help online reputation.

You can’t expect to outrank negative websites; but you can use a wide variety of different outlets to try and push bad ones down and beat them with positive. If one prominent website has a positive and a negative story about you, you can link build heavily to the positive one, thereby promoting it more in Google.

Staying within the law of governments and culture, remember that financial enticements are considered fine in many places and that negative websites can often simply be bought.

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